Sheffield Wednesday. .1
NOW this was more the sort of Premier League dish to set before the fans - an expectant 27,000 - even if it did leave the sweeter after-taste with Sheffield supporters, whose side held on for a point under sustained second-half pressure when Everton might well have won it.
As a pointer to League prospects the exciting game held enough for both managers to savour. 'We're one point ahead of the favourites,' Howard Kendall said, 'very encouraging, lots of good things, two decent debuts. I was very satisfied.'
In Peter Beardsley, Kendall had the most inventive player on the field. His game was a passing delight which constantly probed the visitor's defence with its clever variation of weight and direction.
Trevor Francis, although disappointed by the 39th-minute injury to Chris Waddle (a strained medial ligament) after which 'we lost our attacking impetus' will take heart at his side's first-half performance and the way they battled it out for the draw. 'We're one point better off than we were this time last year,' he said.
The Everton manager left Maurice Johnston on the bench, giving the role of striker and partner to Beardsley to his latest acquisition, Paul Rideout, from Glasgow Rangers. His other summer purchase Barry Horne, the Welsh captain, took up a position in central midfield alongside John Ebbrell.
In steady drizzle it was Waddle who set the ball rolling or rather skidding across the face of the goal after Carlton Palmer's shot had been blocked by Andy Hinchcliffe. Wednesday, kitted out in a snazzy little black and yellow number - the new away strip - looked much the livelier in the first half. There was an element of luck, however, about their 15th-minute goal. Neville Southall, normally so reliable, seemed to have Nigel Worthington's corner in his grasp but the greasy ball slipped through his hands for Nigel Pearson to score from close range.
Everton were still showing signs of close-season rustiness when the sight of Waddle hobbling off just before the interval seemed to lift them. Beardsley crossed, Roland Nilsson headed out and Horne, on his debut, clattered a mighty volley past Chris Woods.
Encouraged by the equaliser, Everton played with mounting confidence in the second half. Beardsley would have made more of a relatively easy chance had he not delayed and tried to walk the ball in. Then Rideout, in the clear, headed straight at Woods. Dave Watson's effort minutes later was better directed but Woods scrambled along the line to save as Everton hunted for the winner. The arrival of Robert Warzycha added such a dimension to the attack that one wondered why he had not been on from the start.
But still the finishing touch eluded Everton as Wednesday retreated to man the trenches. Beardsley cut through a tiring defence to send a shot skimming inches over, Ebbrell skied one too high, and to cap a nervous debut Rideout finished tamely three yards from goal.
Everton: N Southall; M Jackson, A Hinchcliffe, J Ebbrell, D Watson, G Ablett, M Ward, P Beardsley, P Rideout, B Horne (R Warzycha, 69 min), P Beagrie. Substitutes not used: M Johnston, J Kearton. Manager: H Kendall.
Sheffield Wednesday: C Woods; R Nilsson, P King, C Palmer, N Pearson, P Warhurst, C Waddle (C Bart-Williams, 39 min), G Hyde, D Hirst (G Watson, 81 min), P Williams, N Worthington. Substitute not used: K Pressman. Manager: T Francis.
Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).
Goals: Pearson (0-1, 15 min), Horne (1-1, 45 min).